DIY Machine Assembly: Your Hands, Your Creation
Unsung Heroes: The Faces Behind Track Maintenance VOL. 009
Product Planner,Green Max Co.
Dedicated Railroad Enthusiast
Photo: Example of the 09-16 display kit (Crafted by ORANGE DROPS)
Throughout the years, Mr. Koichi has engaged in a multitude of activities, including delivering lectures, conducting courses, and making appearance on television programs. His extensive knowledge and wealth of experience, accumulated over years of dedicated coverage, stand unparalleled in the plastic model industry. Regardless of one`s background in the track maintenance sector, Koichi undoubtedly ranks among the most well-informed individuals regarding tamping machines.
--Model railroading is a world that you may be familiar with, yet there is always more to discover. I was eagerly anticipating our conversation today.
Koichi: Thank you taking the time to speak with me. Model trains are categorized into different types based on scale and track width. The variant with a 9mm track width is known as "N gauge”. N-gauge demands less room space, allowing enthusiasts to relish not only the “joy of observation” but also the “thrill of operating.”
However, this isn`t the sole avenue for experiencing the pleasures of model railroading. For enthusiasts desiring to immerse themselves in the most intricate "joy of constructing" within this hobby, we are delighted to introduce the 1/80 scale "MARUTAI 09-16 Display Kit" (track width: 16.5 mm). An aspect worth exploring is the satellite unit positioned at the heart of the apparatus. As the unit is maneuvered back and forth, the tamping unit synchronously ascends and descends, offering a captivating visual experience.
Photo: The molded prototype, featuring the prominently painted red satellite unit, stands out.
Koichi: Another noteworthy feature is the inclusion of transparent elements for the lights on each section of the body. Recent advancements in commercial LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have resulted in their reduced size and weight, simplifying the task for modelers (enthusiasts who enjoy crafting models) to enhance their creations. The tamping machine operates in the midst of the night, and the radiance generated in the darkness further amplifies the enjoyment of the machine.
Photo: Electrified Satellite Unit (by Koichi)
The work light adds an extra layer of realism, creating the illusion that nighttime operations could commence at any moment. The intricate detailing, particularly in replicating the tamping machine, involves a multitude of small components. How many parts are there?
Koichi: There are approximately 300 different parts, ranging from substantial components to minutely detailed ones. This count encompasses even the air conditioner parts, which, once assembled, become nearly imperceptible from the exterior. However, their visibility is inconsequential as they will be concealed (laughs).
We meticulously insert each part one by one, undergoing a series of selections and discarding until a complete plastic model set is achieved. This meticulous process accounts for the 300 parts.
Photo: Parts Assembled One by One
Koichi: These components are the outcome of our meticulous contemplation on how to faithfully recreate them in model form. The foundation of this process is thorough research. I delved into relevant materials, scouted optimal viewpoints for capturing, and observed nighttime operations multiple times. Engaging in research naturally sparks curiosity about various aspects. While there's a desire to incorporate newfound knowledge into the product, practical constraints such as time and cost also come into play. This is one reason why I'm currently making a conscious effort not to delve too deeply into every detail (laughs).
--I suppose you pursue it to that extent (laughs). Until now, we've gained insights into the intricacies of model product development. Now, share with us the "enjoyment" of crafting models.
Koichi: Well, model crafting is inherently liberating. It's enjoyable to focus on electrical embellishments, and there's a certain fascination in incorporating hydraulic hoses as well.
I personally recommend paying attention to handrails. Although a small component, its mere presence casts shadows on the model, enhancing the three-dimensional effect and adding to the allure of the miniature world. It contributes to elevating the charm of this diminutive universe. It's essential to note that attempting to replicate a railing exactly the same size as the handrail might result in a structure that is too thin and delicate. Opting for a metal material replacement provides both the necessary size and durability.
A delightful aspect of model crafting lies in the meticulous choice of paint. It's not imperative to always replicate the exact color of the real counterpart. Particularly for smaller-sized N-gauge models, opting for a shade slightly lighter than the genuine hue is advisable. Models exhibit a "scale effect," making them appear darker than their actual color, given that the model's surface area is smaller compared to the original object.
Photo: When selecting colors for N-gauge rolling stock, consider the impact of scale effects.
--Oh, fascinating! There were instances when I noticed that the colors on the small color swatches appeared different from those on the larger vehicle surfaces. The realization of scale effects is truly intriguing! This interview is becoming a bit of an enticing journey, almost like getting lured into a swamp (lol). By the way, I heard that Koichi's home workshop is showcased in the product catalog (2017).
Photo: The room, aptly dubbed the "cockpit of a submarine," is brimming with an assortment of crafting tools and materials, covering every inch from top to bottom and left to right. Positioned in the back right corner is a fan that can be adjusted for airbrush painting. (Excerpt from N gauge catalog Vol. 17)
Koichi: Yes, it is quite distinctive. The upper left shelf serves as a reference space, and right in front of it, can you spot the sky blue car on the test line? This is where assembled cars undergo test drives, checking for proper car height and coupling conditions. To facilitate easy inspection, the test line is set at eye level.
--I understand. It mirrors the test line at the placer plant where final checks are conducted on machines before shipment. I find joy in glimpsing Koichi's enthusiasm just by observing this workspace. The attention to detail is evident. Plastic models evoke an image of collecting them, but do you also engage in collecting?
Koichi: Absolutely! There are so many models and plastic kits I desire to create that I have a "stack" of them. The sheer volume is such that even if I dedicated a lifetime, I couldn't complete them all. The world of model trains is a realm of taxonomy. I aim to amass the same model with varying specifications based on the year of manufacture. After my time in this world, the "treasures" I've diligently collected and built may end up labeled as "burnable trash" or "non-burnable trash." My current concern is passing on this legacy to someone who recognizes the value of these treasures before that happens.
Koichi's Favorite Product: "Special Plastic Ruler"
A ruler is an essential tool for precision in interviews.
Metal rulers are avoided due to the potential risk of damaging rolling stock.
The unique ruler comes equipped with a rubber magnet on the back, facilitating attachment to the steel body of the train.
Koichi has immersed himself in the realm of model trains for numerous years. Throughout the interview, he consistently shared his passion for modeling as a genuine enthusiast. Unlike a casual hobbyist who simply declares, "Plastic modeling is enjoyable, let's give it a try!" his love radiates with a serene and resolute depth. There's a gentle yet steadfast affection apparent. At the core of this devotion lies an "admiration for technology." (There were so many captivating stories I wished to articulate, but for brevity's sake, I'll refrain from including them.)
Assembled plastic model featuring soundproof walls designed for domestic specifications in Japan. The satellite unit within the vehicle body moves back and forth, with the tamping unit synchronously moving up and down. The car body is painted yellow, a ubiquitous color for operating machines globally. The roof is gray, and the bogie is molded in black. The package includes four figures of workers and operators, along with display rails. Priced at 13,200 yen (including tax).